Manchester

Northern: Commuter protest against 'unreliable' rail firm

Protest at Manchester Victoria
Image caption Some of the protestors held signs calling for Northern to lose the franchise

Commuters have held a rush-hour protest at a city centre railway station against the service provided by Northern.

People holding signs and banners gathered outside Manchester Victoria on Thursday evening calling for Northern to be stripped of its franchise.

One commuter, Becky Collins, said she was "tired, exhausted and at the end of her tether".

Northern said it was fully committed to improving customers' experience.

The protest was arranged by campaign group Northern Resist.

The group has called for a "reliable, safe and punctual rail service", "rolling stock that is fit for purpose" and a reduction of fares until Northern hits a punctuality target of 70% of all trains on time.

Kate Anstee, 36, who helped to plan the event, said travelling on Northern's trains was "mentally and physically exhausting every single day".

Northern, which is run by Arriva Rail North, reported a sharp rise in cancellations in November.

The rail operator has faced a number of issues in recent years, including major disruption in May 2018 following the introduction of new timetables.

In October, the then-Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had taken steps which could lead to services being brought under government control.

Image caption Christine Roberts (centre) commutes from Bradford to Manchester

Christine Roberts pays about £2,600 to commute to work.

The 48-year-old said she has had to claim more than £100 in compensation due to delayed and cancelled trains.

"It's interfering with businesses as people are late for work, it's interfering with our home lives and our social lives," she said.

Image caption Becky Collins pays £47 a week for her pass

Becky Collins, 43, has been commuting from Chorley to Manchester for the past eight years, said: "We have had enough.

"Your life is entirely impacted by the fact the trains don't run, they're unreliable, you can't plan anything in your personal life as you are at their mercy.

"They think £1.15 is enough compensation for the loss of missing your child's bedtime."

Image caption Steve Sutton said his wife now worked from home after facing issues on the trains

Steve Sutton, 40, from Bolton, said he joined the protest to raise awareness of the "ongoing struggles" commuters faced.

"There was a lot of publicity about the Northern Rail crisis and that's not gone away," he said.

Image caption Estelle Jenkins has been commuting for 14 years and said "it keeps getting worse"

Estelle Jenkins, 43, pays about £2,400 a year to travel to work in Manchester city centre.

"It's a shocking, the services are delayed all the time, cancelled, the trains are filthy," she said.

A spokesman for Northern said: "It's on record that the Northern franchise has faced several material and unprecedented challenges in the past couple of years, outside the direct control of Northern.

"The most significant of these is the ongoing, late delivery of major infrastructure upgrades."

But he added: "Arriva and Northern remain fully committed to delivering the transformation of the North's railways and improving customers' experience."

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